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June 18, 1940 – With the air thick with confusion, fighting still going on in some areas, the escape out of France still going on and anxious anticipation over the reaction from the Axis over the fate of France, the world was holding its collective breath as events unfolded and a besieged nation waited.
The latest news indicated Hitler and Mussolini were meeting in Munich, ahead of a meeting with French representatives over surrender terms. On this day Mussolini arrived in Munich with his foreign minister, Count Ciano, to discuss immediate plans with the Hitler.
Embarrassed over the late entry of Italy in the war against the Allies, and its rather tepid performance since, Mussolini met with Hitler determined to convince his Axis partner to exploit the advantage he had in France by demanding total surrender and occupying the southern portion still free. The Italian dictator clearly wanted “in” on the spoils, and this was a way of reaping rewards with a minimum of risk. But Hitler, too, was in no mood to risk, and was determined to put forward rather mild terms for peace with France. He needed to ensure that the French fleet remained neutral and that a government-in-exile was not formed in North Africa or London determined to further prosecute the war. He also denied Mussolini’s request that Italian troops occupy the Rhone Valley, and that Corsica, Tunisia and Djibouti (adjacent to Italian-occupied Ethiopia) be disarmed.
Meantime – news from Washington over what the White House and Congress were planning to do with the question of military aid and just where was the U.S. in all of this, and was it a further indication America was going to get involved in a shooting war, sooner rather than later.
Here are several reports – and adding to the confusion were technical problems, missed cues and poor shortwave conditions, only adding to the sense of anxiety falling over Europe and the rest of the world as it unfolded, this June 18th in 1940 from NBC Red and Blue networks.